Cast iron pans: a pizza's best friend

Cookbook author Susan Purdy has a saying: “You can only change a pie so many times before you have a pizza.”

It’s a good warning about messing with recipes too much for those mad scientists in the kitchen. But I’ve been thinking. How many times can you change a pizza?

Happily, you can change a pizza over and over and over again. Change the dough, change the topping, change the cheese – it all just keeps getting better and better.

Today I’m not changing the crust or the toppings, though. The big change is in how the pizza itself is baked. No parchment for me this time. No perforated pan, no baking sheet, not a pizza peel in sight.

So, what’s the hot new thing about this pizza? How about a hot plan for a hot pan?

Cast iron used to be the hottest thing in baking, and it’s been making a big comeback for the last couple of years. Cast iron holds heat like no other pan, and lasts literally for generations. You can bake, fry, stew, braise, and brown in cast iron – the fun never ends.

After seeing this technique for pizza online in a few different places, I knew I had to try it. I was stunned and amazed at the delightfully crisp crust cast iron produced, and it was fast and easy to do. I desperately wanted to blog about it, and wooed my Web team with hot pizza until Halley gave me the green light.

READY? SET? LET’S GO!

Start with a batch of your favorite pizza dough that’s had its first rise; and a preheated 400°F oven.

Gently deflate the dough and divide into two pieces, or more if your cast iron pans are smaller.

Next, break out a cold cast iron pan. Here I used a 10″ x 3″ (front) and a 10″ x 2″ (back). Cast iron spiders (the pans with little feet) also work well here.

Well-seasoned cast iron is fairly non-stick but I like to add just a touch of garlic oil to the bottom of the pan before pressing the dough out. If you’re a fan of crispy crusty edges that can be dipped in garlic butter, press the dough up the sides of the pan about 1/2″ to 1″.

Next, add your toppings. Sauce, caramelized onion, turkey pepperoni, and cheese is a standard at our house, and a test kitchen favorite, too.

We also happened to have some leftover pulled pork, so that topped the second pizza, along with a heapin’ helpin’ of pizza cheese blend.

Next up, the leap of faith. Place the pans on the STOVETOP and turn the heat to medium-high for 3 minutes.

Cast iron is an excellent heat conductor, and these pans will shoot up to rocket hot temperatures in no time. The bottom crust is getting a super head start on baking before it even hits the heat of the oven.

The 3 minutes are up and, as promised, the pans are HOT! I probably don’t need to say it, but definitely be careful handling them.

(Don’t you just love this nifty infra-red thermometer? You can get one at the auto parts store.)

Transfer the pans to the preheated oven and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden browned and bubbly.

Almost done, but not quite. The center needs a bit more color, so back to the oven with this pie.

Now THAT ‘S what I’m talkin’ about! Those are some amazing looking pizzas.

Carefully tilt the pan and use a pancake spatula to slide the pizza out onto your cutting surface. Because the bottom crust is so resoundingly crisp, the whole pizza will move as one piece. *CRUNCH*

Sorry we don’ t have smell-o-vision. Think hot barbecue sauce, tomato rich and spicy. Smoky pork and creamy melted cheese and, of course, warm bread.

Just look at that crust! Golden brown all over, crunchy and fortifying without a trace of sogginess. This is pizza you can sink your teeth into, and crust you can sink into heaps of garlic butter.

OK, thanks for holding still, Frank. You can eat your pizza now.

I’ve been playing with pizzas in cast iron for several months now, and I have a host of ideas of what to try next. How about a cheese-stuffed crust? I think the added benefit of the cast iron would cook the thicker crust to perfection. I’m also considering how calzone would work, or a double-crusted pizza. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Have you ever tried pizza in cast iron before? What other non-traditional things do you make in your favorite spider? Let us know in the comments below.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Brian Frederick

    I make the calzone part first, as I like to press it down good in the middle to seal before putting the sauce, cheese and toppings on the other half….did broccoli, ham and cheeses on calzone…no sauce, and then sauce, cheese and pepperoni on the pizza side and put it in the oven…..

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Thanks so much for sharing Brian. As my son would say “Dang, Skippy, that looks great!” Best, ~ MJ

  2. Brian Frederick

    I’ve been making cast iron pizza for a few years now and everyone that has tried it has liked it more than from their pizza shop. The one twist I do at times is, I make half of it into a calzone, with whatever fillings I desire and fold the top over into the middle and then finish the rest of the pizza off like a traditional pizza…..bake it in the oven and when done you have a half and half pizza……The Pizza Calzone….so good.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi Brian,
      How neat! So, you start it in the pan, then fold it over, then finish the bake in the oven? I never would have thought of that! ~ MJ

  3. Cindy

    I have my own recipe for crust using sourdough starter. Should I still heat my cast iron on the burner for a few minutes to get the crust started or since it’s a sourdough crust should I just put it in the oven?

    I’ve used my cast iron many times for pizza and it’s so much better than a “normal” pizza pan.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sourdough pizza crust is a well-loved savory treat around here. Yum! Yes, you should still heat your cast iron pan on the stove for a few minutes to give the crust a bit of a head start in the baking process. This will ensure a crispy crust and perfectly melted cheese. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Corrabelle

    I know this is an older post but commenting anyway…I actually use the bottom of my cast iron skillets for pizza all the time.
    I leave it,upside down in the oven while I preheat the oven.
    I roll out the pizza and make it, slip it onto a peel, and then slide it on to the hot, upside down skillet that’s already piping hot 🙂
    Sometimes I put a bit of cornmeal on the bottom of the crust to prevent sticking. Works like a charm!

    I use the inside of the pan if I’m doing a deep dish though 😉

    Reply
  5. Jhwkdoc@yahoo.com

    Question about the number of rises. I see this recipe and a similar one by CI let’s the dough rise the first time then punches down shapes and bakes. I saw a similar recipe at Serious Eats where after the first rise and punch down, they shape into ball, let rise 2nd time in oiled skillet then shape and bake. What does one v two rises do to the dough?

    The rises allow the yeast to become more active, but only up to a certain point. Because the yeast feed on the sugars in the dough (from the starches in the flour and any added sugar), they will only remain active while they are fed: if you allow the dough to continually rise repeatedly, the yeast will eventually run out of food and start to die off, resulting in unleavened bread. The other part of this–deflating the dough–means the gases produced by the yeast are expelled until you want to bake the dough. Degassing the dough is important because yeast find the gases toxic and they can hinder their activity. Also, when a dough has too much air in it, it will collapse on itself when baked, resulting in a flatter loaf/crust/roll. Also, if the yeast are allowed to nibble on all the sugars in the dough, the crust will bake up pale in color, so you do not want to do too many rises. However, three shorter rises vs. two normal ones will have similar results, so just be aware of how long each recipe states to allow the dough to rise. I hope this helps clear things up a bit! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  6. Mehitabel

    I made the dough recipe and divided it- it was definitely best the second time two days later. I took the chilled dough from the refrigerator, let it rest for about ten minutes, and then pushed it into an oiled cast iron skillet.

    The first time I made the recipe, 400 degrees seemed a bit low, so the second time I used 500 and put the dough and skillet into the oven for about a minute as it was preheating, just to warm the pan and let the dough puff a little. I then topped it, put it over high heat for 4 minutes, and then baked for about 9. The crust was well above average- light and airy inside, crisp on the bottom. It didn’t become overly moist from the sauce ( I think this was helped by the one-minute “fluffing” in the preheating oven and by not topping it until the last second), and the cheese was nicely melted and browned.

    This will definitely stay in my repertoire, and I think it would be a nice way to make pizza on the barbecue as well. It would still have the smoky flavor without oozing through the grill or getting blackened on the bottom.

    Reply
  7. Dutch Oven Pizza

    I have used my Dutch ovens for pizza while camping…..using charcoal. It was great…and what a special treat when camping. The top was nicely browned and the crust was also. I have been using my dutch ovens in the kitchen for pizza since then.

    Reply
  8. cartvl219

    I just checked out the Lodge website. They make a 14″ pizza/roasting pan. It’s kind of pricey – almost $60 but maybe some of the discount kitchenware sites will have it for less. Or maybe Ebay. I don’t make pizza often enough any more to justify that kind of expense (plus kitchen storage space!!) but my taste buds are getting cranked up for pizza so I’ll have to get out the frying pan :). A new baking adventure thanks to KAF!!!
    I also found in the Chefs catalog an enameled pizza pan. I think it was by Emile Henry but not positive. Don’t recall the price.
    Carolyn

    Reply

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